The young people today, oh my

American teen life has long had alcohol, drugs, petty crime, sex, heartbreak, clothes and laziness as distractions. Now there's an even more dangerous threat to a good education: the internet. Is further schooling even worth it if you can get an audience of thousands or millions and make a living with cool videos on YouTube? But sometimes it's hard getting there. This is the predicament of Adam (Will Madden, the director's younger brother and star of his earlier film, the 2013 Euphonia). He's still living at home at 24, he's quit his part time job, and his pro-gun channel has yet to take off. Comments are derisive and humiliating. He's a privileged white boy whose parents are breathing down his neck: when is he going to accomplish something? Mom is sympathetic, the old man, ready to kick him out.

Adam lives somewhere near the other two main characters in this Georgia town. One is Nito (Jose Angelo), a whiz at skateboarding and parkour who could be a YouTube star if his father would buy him a new smartphone. He is new in town and at the school, he's a poor Latino boy whose dad has no time or money for him and who makes him stay out on nights when he's having "company."

Proximity of school lockers leads the bright smile of Nito to catch the eye of popular drama fan Krista (Shirley Chen). "Beast, beast ready to act!" is a chant her acting class teacher leads to whip up energy in the group, which bookends the film. Theater is everything for Krista. But her drama coach seems to think she lacks the courage or depth to work up intense emotion for her lines. A look at Krista at dinner with her parents - silent, everyone staring into space - is an obvious hint at why this might be so: her home "schooling" has been in repression and affectlessness, not the free expression of feelings. Obviously Krista is Asian, completing the multiculturalism of the trio. (Black people there are none.)

Angelo is an actual YouTube skateboarding and sign spinning star whose cheerful manner and light voice make him seem real. He is fluid, but the movie manipulates him. I found it at best painful to contemplate Nito having a play-date romance with Krista continuing to develop when a friendship with an older neighbor leads him to more and more trouble.

Adam's gun advocacy, together no doubt with his isolated status, closed in a room making unsuccessful YouTube videos, pushed by his unsupportive dad into growing frustration and rage, leads him to tragic action with ironic consequences. The twists and turns come hot and heavy toward the end. But unlike various reviewers who think Madden "swerves into melodrama" or "accelerates from reality to sensationalism," I see clear hints of coming violence and tragedy in the disjointed, cacophonous early sequences of this choppy, energetic film.

Beast Beast, 85 mins., which grows out of his award-winning short film , debuted at Sundance Jan. 2020 and was shown in a few other festivals through the year as well as streaming on Tubi in Feb. 2021. In select theaters April 16, 2021, online May 4. Metascore 63%.